From the In Company With Angels Website
A Swedenborgian congregation, the New Church Society of Glendale, Ohio, commissioned these windows as a gift to a sister church in Cincinnati, the Church of the New Jerusalem, in memory of Charles and Mary Allen.
The denomination’s national newsletter, the New Church Messenger, reported in January 1903 that the “Glendale parish has made a gift of the seven chancel windows designed by Tiffany representing the Angels of the Seven Churches, originally installed in the Church of the New Jerusalem, Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1902.” Tiffany’s portraits of the seven messengers of God that convey Revelation’s central affirmation of redemption, are especially significant to Swedenborgians who see in the seven angels diverse perspectives of spiritual understanding and seven stages of individual spiritual growth potential. Depicted in glass enamels, the angels’ faces are imbued with the grace and sanctity intended to offer moral guidance, each fully prepared to intimately connect the viewer to their universal creator.
When the church was taken by the state of Ohio under eminent domain, and torn down for highway construction in 1964, these beautiful windows were crated and later purchased for the Swedenborgian Church at Temenos by generous donors from across the United States. For almost 40 years, the boxed eight-foot-tall windows were stored in parishioners’ garages and basements in Ohio, finally traveling in a U-Haul trailer to the Swedenborgian Church at Temenos in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and resting there in a barn until 2001. Although the newly arrived minister had been informed by the retiring minister that there were ‘stained glass windows in the barn’, when Rev. Susannah Currie and other church members opened the boxes in 2001 they were stunned. She called upon stained-glass expert Arthur Femenella, who recognized Tiffany’s opalescent glass, design, and technique through decades of grime, to provide an estimate for restoration. In 2004, with the impetus of the donation of $50,000 by a single anonymous donor, restoration of the angel windows began. The individual efforts of Swedenborgians past and present, as well as the skillful talents of Art Femenella and his stained glass artisans, have preserved these sacred tableaus for the appreciation of future generations. Although Tiffany’s ‘Partial list of windows’ and church archives had previously confirmed the attribution of the windows to Tiffany, cleaning of the last window in the series revealed the signature of Tiffany studios.
Currently, the windows are in storage at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL awaiting the exhibit which will be held there in February 2010. Negotiations are ongoing with the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City for Fall 2010 and with the Taft Museum in Cincinnati for an exhibit in Spring 2011. More information will appear here as it becomes available.
ABOUT THE ANGELS
Tiffany's window series 'Angels Representing Seven Churches' was inspired by the descriptions in Chapters 2 and 3 of the Bible's Book of Revelation. The letters to the churches, and to the associated angels to whom John is directed to write, are excerpted in the inscriptions at the bottom of each window. These letters to the angels of the churches are the last touchstone on earthly concerns before the book takes a turn to otherworldly imagery.The Swedenborgian Church, which commissioned the windows, has in its theology that the letters to the seven angels of the churches can be read as the possibility of seven states that human beings can reach in their journey of spiritual development, and as seven stages of development that all individuals have access to in their spiritual journey.The weaknesses of each community, with warnings of the consequences of their actions, are addressed and promises for reform are highlighted. The gifts that will be received when these weaknesses are overcome are depicted in the hands of each angel. In the address of each letter to the angel of the church the scripture passages convey the idea that angels correspond to communities, types of people, and spiritual states.
The seven angels offer their gifts as rewards at the various stages of spiritual salvation humanity can experience, both individually and as a whole.
Ephesus represents people “who focus primarily on truth they have been taught and not on the good they could do.” This letter makes a promise to those who, seeing this tendency in themselves, change their desire to learn truth into a desire to do good: “I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the middle of the paradise of God.” This, in turn, allows them to receive “all loving-kindness from the Lord.”
Smyrna represents those who do good but “do not approach the Lord.” When living the truth, individuals know - but without acknowledging - that increased understanding comes from the Divine. Thus one believes that we “do good under our own power because we have the ability to do good.” In the letter to Smyrna the promise is, “be thou faithful until death, and I will give thee the crown of life.” The gift, a crown which adorns the head, represents the understanding that the Lord “alone is life, and from the Lord alone eternal life.”
Pergamos represents those “who come to equate religion entirely with doing good deeds and not at all with learning truth.” In this missive individuals are challenged to act communally, to do good things from the truth they know and to acknowledge God so that, within them, love and truth will be entirely at one. A promise is made “to those that overcome …a white stone and in the stone a new name written.” This gift represents that “truth united to goodness is inscribed not on our memories, but on our lives.” The “new name written” means God’s essential qualities: love, wisdom, mercy, innocence, freedom, peace and healing wholeness.
Thyatira represents those who “have faith that is detached from charity.” This letter challenges persons to let the truth guide us to do good and, through good deeds and relying on the Lord, to win victory over selfishness in order to live a new life. The letter states, “to those who overcome I will give power over the nations - and I will give them the morning star.” The gifts that result from successfully fighting temptations are “to rule over the nations… to overcome the evil” and – represented by the dawn luminary - “intelligence and wisdom given by the Lord.”
Sardis represents those who live “only the outward appearance of charity and faith.” In the letter to Sardis one is challenged to continually seek the truth, yet to realize that what is learned is only confirmed within when one acts lovingly from the truth that is understood. We are promised that those who “overcome shall be clothed in white.” “In the Word, ‘white’ is mentioned in connection with truth because it originates from the light of the sun.”
Philadelphia represents those who live in “truth based on goodness from the power of the word,” that is to rely on the Lord’s strength to fight temptation, and in turn, live in a reborn state. The letter to Philadelphia promises, “To those that overcome I will make a pillar in the temple of my God - and I will write upon them my new name.” This means that by becoming in this life one who “sustains the Lord’s church in heaven” we will be “protected and preserved”
Laodicea represents those who “at one time deny and at another time acknowledge the Lord as the source of all that is good and true.” This letter challenges individuals to be diligent in keeping the Lord as a guide and not to revert to a belief that one does good or knows truth on their own. Promising “to those that overcome I will grant to sit with me in my throne,” the missive conveys that we will be “united with the Lord in heaven.”
For more information on the Seven Angels Windows, visit the In Company With Angels Website
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